Gator special teams gives up two touchdowns
Perhaps the opening possession may have been a sign for the Gatewood Gators in a heartbreaking 27-20 loss last Friday to Terrell Academy at The Swamp.
Choosing to receive after winning the coin toss to start the game, Gatewood drove to the 46-yard line and stalled, forcing a punt. Blake Calloway lofted a low, wobbly punt to the Terrell 27-yard line.
The Eagles return man had a full head of steam as he caught the punt on the run, raced down the right sideline, cut back across the field and out ran the Gators for a 72-yard return for the touchdown and a 6-0 advantage with 8:22 left in the first quarter.
The Gators special teams took another hit to start the second half clinging to a 13-12 edge. Terrell struck again on a run back, this time a 75-yard kickoff return for a score and suddenly, the Eagles pushed out to a 19-13 lead.
This night was not for Gatewood special teams when, combined with the 12 points on return scores, the Gators missed a short field goal and an extra point essentially giving the top-ranked Eagles 16 points in a 7-point loss.
“We grew up some [tonight],” said Gator head coach Jeff Ratliff. “No one likes to lose but that happened to us and next week is open and we’ve got to fix some things.
“We gave up two kick returns and the one coming out of halftime bothered me because you want to be ready to play and I felt good coming out of the locker room.”
Senior Cole Hudson blocked Terrell’s extra point attempt on the punt return and came back and gave Gatewood a 7-6 lead with five ticks left in the opening stanza.
Terrell rallied and regained the lead with 8:17 left before intermission on an 8-yard touchdown pass for a 12-7 margin following a failed two-point conversion attempt.
Gatewood was forced to punt with 6:30 on the clock. The Eagles set up shop at their own 25-yard line. On second down, a big hit in the Gator secondary jarred the football loose and freshman Caleb Riser scooped up the ball and raced 32 yards for a touchdown and a 13-12 Gatewood lead with 5:22 left before halftime.
Terrell hung on to lead 19-13 at the end of three quarters with the kickoff return by the Eagles the only score of the quarter, although Gatewood was driving.
At the 10:18 mark of the final frame, junior Dylan Sinclair grabbed a pass from Landon Wilson for a 26-yard completion to the Terrell 5-yard line. Four plays later on fourth and goal, Hudson blasted in from 1-yard out, giving Gatewood a slim 20-16 edge with 7:45 to play.
Needing to go 76 yards with a new possession at the 24-yard line, Terrell set sail on a 13-play drive culminating in a 10-yard touchdown pass for a daunting 27-20 advantage with 1:54 left in regulation.
A Gator flag for too many players on the field, a 4-yard sack and a big catch that was called a no-catch was just too much for Gatewood to overcome as time ran out in the 27-20 loss.
“It was a tough night,” Ratliff said. “Two good football teams playing against each other but we have to correct some stuff and hopefully we’ll see them again later on in the playoffs or it would be nice to see them at Mercer.
“But either way, we’ve got to fix it. It was a good football game; we made some mistakes and came out on the short end of the stick. We have to fix us. We have to fix special teams. We missed a lot of blocks and tackles We have to learn how to finish plays in all three phases of the game.”